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Epistemic Modals

Mind 116 (464):983-1026 (2007)

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  1. Permissive Metaepistemology.David Thorstad - 2019 - Mind 128 (511):907-926.
    Recent objections to epistemic permissivism have a metaepistemic flavor. Impermissivists argue that their view best accounts for connections between rationality, planning and deference. Impermissivism is also taken to best explain the value of rational belief and normative assessment. These objections pose a series of metaepistemic explanatory challenges for permissivism. In this paper, I illustrate how permissivists might meet their explanatory burdens by developing two permissivist metaepistemic views which fare well against the explanatory challenges.
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  • Fictional Reports.Paal Fjeldvig Antonsen - forthcoming - Synthese:1-14.
    This paper outlines a bicontextual account of fictional reports. A fictional report is a report on something that happens in a fiction, and a bicontextual account is an account that relativizes truth to two contexts. The proposal is motivated by two considerations. First, it explains the intuitive truth conditions of fictional reports without postulating hidden fiction operators. Second, it handles the problem of indexicals in fictional reports better than the standard accounts.
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  • Evaluational Adjectives.Alex Silk - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research:1-35.
    This paper demarcates a theoretically interesting class of "evaluational adjectives." This class includes predicates expressing various kinds of normative and epistemic evaluation, such as predicates of personal taste, aesthetic adjectives, moral adjectives, and epistemic adjectives, among others. Evaluational adjectives are distinguished, empirically, in exhibiting phenomena such as discourse-oriented use, felicitous embedding under the attitude verb `find', and sorites-susceptibility in the comparative form. A unified degree-based semantics is developed: What distinguishes evaluational adjectives, semantically, is that they denote context-dependent measure functions ("evaluational (...)
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  • Semantic Gaps and Protosemantics.Benj Hellie - 2019 - In Acacio de Barros & Carlos Montemayor (eds.), Mind and Quanta. Berlin: Springer.
    Semantic gaps between physical and mental discourse include the 'explanatory', 'epistemic' (Black-and-White Mary), and 'suppositional' (zombies) gaps; protosemantics is concerned with what is fundamental to meaning. Our tradition presupposes a truth-based protosemantics, with disastrous consequences for interpreting the semantic gaps: nonphysicalism, epiphenomenalism, separatism. Fortunately, an endorsement-based protosemantics, recentering meaning from the world to the mind, is technically viable, intuitively more plausible, and empirically more adequate. But, of present significance, it makes room for interpreting mental discourse as expressing simulations: this blocks (...)
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  • Chancy Modus Ponens.Sven Neth - forthcoming - Analysis:anz022.
    Chancy modus ponens is the following inference scheme: ‘ probably φ ’, ‘if φ, then ψ’, therefore, ‘probably ψ ’. I argue that Chancy modus ponens is invalid in general. I further argue that the invalidity of Chancy modus ponens sheds new light on the alleged counterexample to modus ponens presented by McGee. I close by observing that, although Chancy modus ponens is invalid in general, we can recover a restricted sense in which this scheme of inference is valid.
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  • The Spectre of Triviality.Nate Charlow - forthcoming - Analysis:anz011.
    A spectre haunts the semantics of natural language — the spectre of Triviality. Semanticists (in particular Rothschild 2013; Khoo and Mandelkern 2018a,b) have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre. None, I will argue, have yet succeeded.
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  • No Reasons to Believe the False.Javier González Prado - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (3):703-722.
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  • Truth-Assessment Methodology and the Case Against the Relativist Case 1 a Gainst Contextualism About Deontic Modals.J. L. Dowell - 2017 - Res Philosophica 94 (3):325-357.
    Recent challenges to Kratzer’s canonical contextualist semantics for modal expressions are united by a shared methodological practice: Each requires the assessment of the truth or warrant of a sentence in a scenario. The default evidential status accorded these judgments is a constraining one: It is assumed that, to be plausible, a semantic hypothesis must vindicate the reported judgments. Fully assessing the extent to which these cases do generate data that puts pressure on the canonical semantics, then, requires an understanding of (...)
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  • The Psychological Representation of Modality.Jonathan Phillips & Joshua Knobe - 2018 - Mind and Language 33 (1):1-.
    A series of recent studies have explored the impact of people's judgments regarding physical law, morality, and probability. Surprisingly, such studies indicate that these three apparently unrelated types of judgments often have precisely the same impact. We argue that these findings provide evidence for a more general hypothesis about the kind of cognition people use to think about possibilities. Specifically, we suggest that this aspect of people's cognition is best understood using an idea developed within work in the formal semantics (...)
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  • Weak Assertion.Luca Incurvati & Julian J. Schlöder - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (277):741-770.
    We present an inferentialist account of the epistemic modal operator might. Our starting point is the bilateralist programme. A bilateralist explains the operator not in terms of the speech act of rejection ; we explain the operator might in terms of weak assertion, a speech act whose existence we argue for on the basis of linguistic evidence. We show that our account of might provides a solution to certain well-known puzzles about the semantics of modal vocabulary whilst retaining classical logic. (...)
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  • On Linguistic Evidence for Expressivism.Andrés Soria Ruiz & Isidora Stojanovic - 2019 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 86:155-180.
    This paper argues that there is a class of terms, or uses of terms, that are best accounted for by an expressivist account. We put forward two sets of criteria to distinguish between expressive and factual terms. The first set relies on the action-guiding nature of expressive language. The second set relies on the difference between one's evidence for making an expressive vs. factual statement. We then put those criteria to work to show, first, that the basic evaluative adjectives such (...)
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  • Modals Under Epistemic Tension.Guillermo Del Pinal & Brandon Waldon - 2019 - Natural Language Semantics 27 (2):135-188.
    According to Kratzer’s influential account of epistemic 'must' and 'might', these operators involve quantification over domains of possibilities determined by a modal base and an ordering source. Recently, this account has been challenged by invoking contexts of ‘epistemic tension’: i.e., cases in which an assertion that 'must p' is conjoined with the possibility that 'not p', and cases in which speakers try to downplay a previous assertion that 'must p', after finding out that 'not p'. Epistemic tensions have been invoked (...)
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  • Noncognitivism and the Frege‐Geach Problem in Formal Epistemology.Benjamin Lennertz - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    This paper makes explicit the way in which many theorists of the epistemology of uncertainty, or formal epistemologists, are committed to a version of noncognitivism—one about thoughts that something is likely. It does so by drawing an analogy with metaethical noncognitivism. I explore the degree to which the motivations for both views are similar and how both views have to grapple with the Frege‐Geach Problem about complex thoughts. The major upshot of recognizing this noncognitivism is that it presents challenges and (...)
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  • Moral Disagreement and Moral Semantics.Justin Khoo & Joshua Knobe - 2016 - Noûs:109-143.
    When speakers utter conflicting moral sentences, it seems clear that they disagree. It has often been suggested that the fact that the speakers disagree gives us evidence for a claim about the semantics of the sentences they are uttering. Specifically, it has been suggested that the existence of the disagreement gives us reason to infer that there must be an incompatibility between the contents of these sentences. This inference then plays a key role in a now-standard argument against certain theories (...)
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  • Semantics and Metasemantics in the Context of Generative Grammar.Seth Yalcin - 2014 - In Alexis Burgess & Brett Sherman (eds.), Metasemantics: New Essays on the Foundations of Meaning. Oxford University Press. pp. 17-54.
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  • A Counterexample to Modus Tollens.Seth Yalcin - 2012 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 41 (6):1001-1024.
    This paper defends a counterexample to Modus Tollens, and uses it to draw some conclusions about the logic and semantics of indicative conditionals and probability operators in natural language. Along the way we investigate some of the interactions of these expressions with 'knows', and we call into question the thesis that all knowledge ascriptions have truth-conditions.
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  • Indicatives at Stake.Javier González de Prado Salas - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (7):755-778.
    ABSTRACTSeveral authors have claimed that indicative conditionals are sensitive to the epistemic perspective of agents. According to this sort of view, the truth of an indicative conditional depends on the background evidence of some relevant agent or group of agents. In this paper, I argue that the context-dependence of indicative conditionals goes beyond this. Indicative conditionals are not only sensitive to the evidence of agents, but also to contextual factors that determine what is inferable from such background evidence. More specifically, (...)
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  • Generalized Free Choice and Missing Alternatives.Marie-Christine Meyer - 2015 - Journal of Semantics:ffv010.
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  • The Nature of Doubt and a New Puzzle About Belief, Doubt, and Confidence.Andrew Moon - 2018 - Synthese 195 (4):1827-1848.
    In this paper, I present and defend a novel account of doubt. In Part 1, I make some preliminary observations about the nature of doubt. In Part 2, I introduce a new puzzle about the relationship between three psychological states: doubt, belief, and confidence. I present this puzzle because my account of doubt emerges as a possible solution to it. Lastly, in Part 3, I elaborate on and defend my account of doubt. Roughly, one has doubt if and only if (...)
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  • Conditionals.R. A. Briggs - 2019 - In Richard Pettigrew & Jonathan Weisberg (eds.), The Open Handbook of Formal Epistemology. PhilPapers Foundation. pp. 543-590.
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  • How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Probability 1.Daniel Greco - 2015 - Philosophical Perspectives 29 (1):179-201.
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  • Propositional Anaphors.Peter van Elswyk - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (4):1055-1075.
    Propositions are posited to perform a variety of explanatory roles. One important role is being what is designated by a dedicated linguistic expression like a that-clause. In this paper, the case that propositions are needed for such a role is bolstered by defending that there are other expressions dedicated to designating propositions. In particular, it is shown that natural language has anaphors for propositions. Complement "so" and the response markers "yes" and "no" are argued to be such expressions.
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  • One's Modus Ponens: Modality, Coherence and Logic.Una Stojnić - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (1):167-214.
    Recently, there has been a shift away from traditional truth-conditional accounts of meaning towards non-truth-conditional ones, e.g., expressivism, relativism and certain forms of dynamic semantics. Fueling this trend is some puzzling behavior of modal discourse. One particularly surprising manifestation of such behavior is the alleged failure of some of the most entrenched classical rules of inference; viz., modus ponens and modus tollens. These revisionary, non-truth-conditional accounts tout these failures, and the alleged tension between the behavior of modal vocabulary and classical (...)
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  • Content in a Dynamic Context.Una Stojnić - 2019 - Noûs 53 (2):394-432.
    The standing tradition in theorizing about meaning, since at least Frege, identifies meaning with propositions, which are, or determine, the truth-conditions of a sentence in a context. But a recent trend has advocated a departure from this tradition: in particular, it has been argued that modal claims do not express standard propositional contents. This non-propositionalism has received different implementations in expressivist semantics and certain kinds of dynamic semantics. They maintain that the key aspect of interpretation of modal claims is the (...)
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  • If P, Then P!Matthew Mandelkern - manuscript
    The Identity principle says that conditionals with the form 'If p, then p' are logical truths. Identity is overwhelmingly plausible, and has rarely been explicitly challenged. But a wide range of conditionals nonetheless invalidate it. I explain the problem, and argue that the culprit is the principle known as Import-Export, which we must thus reject. I then explore how we can reject Import-Export in a way that still makes sense of the intuitions that support it, arguing that the differences between (...)
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  • Assessment Sensitivity: Relative Truth and its Applications.John MacFarlane - 2014 - Oxford University Press.
    John MacFarlane explores how we might make sense of the idea that truth is relative. He provides new, satisfying accounts of parts of our thought and talk that have resisted traditional methods of analysis, including what we mean when we talk about what is tasty, what we know, what will happen, what might be the case, and what we ought to do.
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  • Semantics and the Objects of Assertion.Dilip Ninan - 2010 - Linguistics and Philosophy 33 (5):355-380.
    This paper is about the relationship between two questions: the question of what the objects of assertion are and the question of how best to theorise about ‘shifty’ phenomena like modality and tense. I argue that the relationship between these two questions is less direct than is often supposed. I then explore the consequences of this for a number of debates in the philosophy of language.
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  • Reference and Monstrosity.Paolo Santorio - 2012 - Philosophical Review 121 (3):359-406.
    According to the orthodox account developed by Kaplan, indexicals like I, you, and now invariably refer to elements of the context of speech. This essay argues that the orthodoxy is wrong. I, you, and the like are shifted by certain modal operators and hence can fail to refer to elements of the context, for example, I can fail to refer to the speaker. More precisely, indexicals are syntactically akin to logical variables. They can be free, in which case they work, (...)
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  • Against the Identification of Assertoric Content with Compositional Value.Brian Rabern - 2012 - Synthese 189 (1):75-96.
    This essay investigates whether or not we should think that the things we say are identical to the things our sentences mean. It is argued that these theoretical notions should be distinguished, since assertoric content does not respect the compositionality principle. As a paradigmatic example, Kaplan's formal language LD is shown to exemplify a failure of compositionality. It is demonstrated that by respecting the theoretical distinction between the objects of assertion and compositional values certain conflicts between compositionality and contextualism are (...)
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  • Binding, Compositionality, and Semantic Values.Michael Glanzberg & Jeffrey C. King - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
    In this paper, we defend a traditional approach to semantics, that holds that the outputs of compositional semantics are propositional, i.e. truth conditions (or anything else appropriate to be the objects of assertions or the contents of attitudes). Though traditional, this view has been challenged on a number of fronts over the years. Since classic work of Lewis, arguments have been offered which purport to show that semantic composition requires values that are relativized, e.g. to times, or other parameters that (...)
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  • Talking About Worlds.Matthew Mandelkern - forthcoming - Philosophical Perspectives 33.
    I explore the logic of the conditional, using credence judgments to argue against Duality and in favor of Conditional Excluded Middle. I then explore how to give a theory of the conditional which validates the latter and not the former, developing a variant on Kratzer (1981)'s restrictor theory, as well as a proposal which combines Stalnaker (1968)'s theory of the conditional with the theory of epistemic modals I develop in Mandelkern 2019a. I argue that the latter approach fits naturally with (...)
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  • Conditionals, Context, and the Suppression Effect.Fabrizio Cariani & Lance J. Rips - 2017 - Cognitive Science 41 (3):540-589.
    Modus ponens is the argument from premises of the form If A, then B and A to the conclusion B. Nearly all participants agree that the modus ponens conclusion logically follows when the argument appears in this Basic form. However, adding a further premise can lower participants’ rate of agreement—an effect called suppression. We propose a theory of suppression that draws on contemporary ideas about conditional sentences in linguistics and philosophy. Semantically, the theory assumes that people interpret an indicative conditional (...)
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  • Knowledge, Hope, and Fallibilism.Matthew A. Benton - 2018, early view - Synthese:1-17.
    Hope, in its propositional construction "I hope that p," is compatible with a stated chance for the speaker that not-p. On fallibilist construals of knowledge, knowledge is compatible with a chance of being wrong, such that one can know that p even though there is an epistemic chance for one that not-p. But self-ascriptions of propositional hope that p seem to be incompatible, in some sense, with self-ascriptions of knowing whether p. Data from conjoining hope self-ascription with outright assertions, with (...)
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  • Practical Moore Sentences.Matthew Mandelkern - forthcoming - Noûs.
    I discuss what I call practical Moore sentences: sentences like ‘You must close your door, but I don’t know whether you will’, which combine an order together with an avowal of agnosticism about whether the order will be obeyed. I show that practical Moore sentences are generally infelicitous. But this infelicity is surprising: it seems like there should be nothing wrong with giving someone an order while acknowledging that you do not know whether it will obeyed. I suggest that this (...)
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  • Naming and Epistemic Necessity.Dilip Ninan - forthcoming - Noûs.
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  • Quantification and Epistemic Modality.Dilip Ninan - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (4):433-485.
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  • Yalcin on 'Might'.D. Barnett - 2009 - Mind 118 (471):771-775.
    On one view about the word 'might', to say, sincerely and literally, that it might be that S is to say something about one's epistemic state (and perhaps also about the epistemic states of those around one). For convenience, I will call this the natural view about 'might' On one version of the natural view, to say that it might be that S is to say that what one is certain of is consistent with the proposition that S. Seth Yalcin (...)
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  • Epistemic Comparison, Models of Uncertainty, and the Disjunction Puzzle.D. Lassiter - 2015 - Journal of Semantics 32 (4):649-684.
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  • Generalized Update Semantics.Simon Goldstein - 2019 - Mind 128 (511):795-835.
    This paper explores the relationship between dynamic and truth conditional semantics for epistemic modals. It provides a generalization of a standard dynamic update semantics for modals. This new semantics derives a Kripke semantics for modals and a standard dynamic semantics for modals as special cases. The semantics allows for new characterizations of a variety of principles in modal logic, including the inconsistency of ‘p and might not p’. Finally, the semantics provides a construction procedure for transforming any truth conditional semantics (...)
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  • Relativism 2: Semantic Content.Max Kölbel - 2015 - Philosophy Compass 10 (1):52–67.
    In the pair of articles of which this is the second, I present a set of problems and philosophical proposals that have in recent years been associated with the term “relativism”. These problems are related to the question of how we should represent thought and speech about certain topics. The main issue is whether we should model such mental states or linguistic acts as involving representational contents that are absolutely correct or incorrect, or whether, alternatively, their correctness should be thought (...)
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  • A User’s Guide to Hybrid Tools.Caleb Perl - forthcoming - Mind:fzy063.
    Hybrid metaethical theories have significant promise; they would have important upshots if they were true. But they also face severe problems. The problems are severe enough to make many philosophers doubt that they could be true. My ambition is to show that the problems are just instances of a highly general problem: a problem about what are sometimes called ‘intensional anaphora'. I'll also show that any adequate explanation of intensional anaphora immediately solves all the problems for the hybrid theorist. We (...)
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  • Logic Informed.Justin Bledin - 2014 - Mind 123 (490):277-316.
    Do logically valid arguments necessarily preserve truth? Certain inferences involving informational modal operators and indicative conditionals suggest that truth preservation and good deductive argument come apart. Given this split, I recommend an alternative to the standard truth preservation view of logic on which validity and good deductive argument coincide: logic is a descriptive science that is fundamentally concerned not with the preservation of truth, but with the preservation of structural features of information. Along the way, I defend modus ponens for (...)
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  • Embedding Epistemic Modals.Cian Dorr & John Hawthorne - 2013 - Mind 122 (488):867-914.
    Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, … ’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, … ’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals as expressing propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or group. This paper (...)
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  • Dynamic Non-Classicality.Matthew Mandelkern - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-11.
    I show that standard dynamic approaches to the semantics of epistemic modals invalidate the classical laws of excluded middle and non-contradiction, as well as the law of ‘epistemic non-contradiction’. I argue that these heretofore unnoticed facts pose a serious challenge for these approaches.
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  • Knowing Our Degrees of Belief.Sinan Dogramaci - 2016 - Episteme 13 (3):269-287.
    The main question of this paper is: how do we manage to know what our own degrees of belief are? Section 1 briefly reviews and criticizes the traditional functionalist view, a view notably associated with David Lewis and sometimes called the theory-theory. I use this criticism to motivate the approach I want to promote. Section 2, the bulk of the paper, examines and begins to develop the view that we have a special kind of introspective access to our degrees of (...)
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  • Against the Russellian Open Future.Anders J. Schoubye & Brian Rabern - 2017 - Mind 126 (504): 1217–1237.
    Todd (2016) proposes an analysis of future-directed sentences, in particular sentences of the form 'will(φ)', that is based on the classic Russellian analysis of definite descriptions. Todd's analysis is supposed to vindicate the claim that the future is metaphysically open while retaining a simple Ockhamist semantics of future contingents and the principles of classical logic, i.e. bivalence and the law of excluded middle. Consequently, an open futurist can straightforwardly retain classical logic without appeal to supervaluations, determinacy operators, or any further (...)
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  • A New Puzzle About Belief and Credence.Andrew Moon - 2019 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 49 (2):272-291.
    I present a puzzle about belief and credence, which takes the form of three independently supported views that are mutually inconsistent. The first is the view that S has a modal belief that p (e.g., S believes that probably-p) if and only if S has a corresponding credence that p. The second is the view that S believes that p only if S has some credence that p. The third is the view that, possibly, S believes that p without a (...)
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  • Reversibility or Disagreement.Jacob Ross & Mark Schroeder - 2013 - Mind 122 (485):43-84.
    The phenomenon of disagreement has recently been brought into focus by the debate between contextualists and relativist invariantists about epistemic expressions such as ‘might’, ‘probably’, indicative conditionals, and the deontic ‘ought’. Against the orthodox contextualist view, it has been argued that an invariantist account can better explain apparent disagreements across contexts by appeal to the incompatibility of the propositions expressed in those contexts. This paper introduces an important and underappreciated phenomenon associated with epistemic expressions — a phenomenon that we call (...)
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  • Full Belief and Loose Speech.Sarah Moss - 2019 - Philosophical Review 128 (3):255-291.
    This paper defends an account of full belief, including an account of its relationship to credence. Along the way, I address several familiar and difficult questions about belief. Does fully believing a proposition require having maximal confidence in it? Are rational beliefs closed under entailment, or does the preface paradox show that rational agents can believe inconsistent propositions? Does whether you believe a proposition depend partly on your practical interests? My account of belief resolves the tension between conflicting answers to (...)
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  • Semantic with Assignment Variables.Alex Silk - forthcoming - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    This manuscript develops a framework for compositional semantics and begins illustrating its fruitfulness by applying it to a spectrum of core linguistic data, such as with quantifiers, attitude ascriptions, relative clauses, conditionals, and questions. A key innovation is to introduce variables for assignment functions into the syntax; semantic values are treated systematically in terms of sets of assignments, theoretically interpreted as representing possibilities. The framework provides an alternative to traditional “context- index”-style frameworks descending from Kamp/Kaplan/Lewis/Stalnaker. A principal feature of the (...)
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